IGDA Game Accessibility Special Interest Group

One thumb game - Zurai and extending functionality of one button devices

Over on Kotaku there is video of a mobile XNA game called Zurai that can be played with one thumb.

What makes this more accessible is that the players' ship automatically fires its weapons. The player uses their thumb to move the ship around the screen, aiming at and avoiding enemies.

This made me ask myself if there's a need to classify some games as one button (pressing the button) and others are one thumb (moving the button). I realized that an analog stick on a controller is still a button. Only differences are what you can do with that button. It then becomes a question of, how many different ways can we manipulate a one button device? Push, pull, move, speak into it, blow air on it... anything else?

A sword fighting game could be made accessible with a device that allowed someone to push, pull and move a single button. Think of the old 2D Prince of Persia games. In this video of Prince of Persia 2 you'll see the player run left or right, jump left or right, duck and crawl left or right, swing sword to attack enemies and use the sword to block attacks. That's large number of actions the player can perform compared to most one button games, yet with a one button device that allows moving it in all directions, pushing and pulling it, all of the player actions I listed are possible. To move left, players move the one button to the left. To jump as they are moving left they can pull on the one button. When an enemy gets near, the player automatically draws their sword. When the button is pressed, the player attacks and when pulled they defend/block.

I don't know about you, but I'd play that.

Emotiv Mind Control

Image of Derren Brown - psychological illusionist.Fancy controlling games with your mind? Emotiv Systems are taking this principle to the main-stream with their proposed $299 (£150) head-set. Read more at AbleGamers.com who are hoping to try this out at the Game Developers Conference being held right now.

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Blizzard Get It Wrong

Oh dear.... It seems Blizzard have made gaming life much more difficult for disabled gamers with their popular game "World of Warcraft". Very likely this was through their ignorance of the negative effects, but.... oh dear.

To learn more, take a gander at AbleGamers.com's excellent article "Adventurers Wanted: Disabled Need Not Apply".


"Designing Games that are Accessible for Everyone"

Designing Games that are Accessible for Everyone. Image of Sonic the Hedgehog (c) Sega.Eitan Glinert has a fine article just published at Gamasutra. If you care about Game Accessibility - read some of the comments, which may get you a bit fired up. Maybe the title is a little mis-leading as very few people expect all games to be accessible for everyone - but some can be - and more should be more accessible. I think it would be hard for anyone to dispute that and not look bitter and twisted.


Game Accessibility Arcade to be Presented at Game Developers Conference 2008

Game Developers Conference 2008 event to Showcase Solutions for Creating Accessible Versions of Commercial and Independent Games and Game Controllers for Gamers with Disabilities.

IGDA Game Accessibility Group to Host; Corporate Participants Include Emotiv, NaturalPoint, and more.

The Game Accessibility Special Interest Group (SIG) of the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) will be presenting its popular Accessibility Arcade session at the Game Developers Conference 2008 in San Francisco at the Moscone Center, February 18 - 22.

SIG members hope that these sessions will provide the opportunity will help raise awareness amongst game developers and the gaming media that people with disabilities also want the chance to play commercial games and game controllers that have been re-designed for computers and the latest console systems. “The message we hope to convey at GDC 08 is that games are for everyone and are an important part of life today that cannot continue to be inaccessible for people with disabilities,” said Michelle Hinn, chairperson of the Game Accessibility SIG, game design instructor at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and Game Accessibility Researcher at the National Center for Supercomputing Applications. “The majority of games on the market remain unplayable by up to 10-20% of the population. This is not only an opportunity for developers to increase revenue - it is an issue of social injustice that must be corrected.”

SIG members also want to convey that Game Accessibility does not mean non-creative, non-innovative games. Hinn welcomes both skeptics and supporters of game accessibility to see the opportunities for fostering a more socially aware industry and “to educate themselves and help break down preconceived notions about configuring games and controllers that can also include gamers with disabilities.

Come take a look at some of the incredible next generation controllers that we'll have on display from Emotiv, Natural Point, One Switch, as well as game accessibility solutions such as Doom3 and other games with complete closed captioning by Reid Kimball of Games[cc] and “Blind Hero,” which allows the blind to play guitar hero using a haptic device developed by SIG member Eelke Folmer at the University of Nevada, Reno. And find out more about our partner sites, AbleGamers.com and One Switch, to see how we are getting information not just to the game development community but also out to gamers with disabilities themselves about games and controllers that are or can become accessible at one of the kiosks we'll have to showcase these web communities. These are just some of the many examples we'll have for session goers to interact with. And, hey, who doesn't want to do the Jedi Mind Trick?” Commercial controllers that help represent the future of accessible game play and controllers that will be shown include those by:

Emotiv: A pioneer in brain computer interface (BCI) technology, Emotiv Systems creates technologies that allow machines to take both conscious and non-conscious inputs directly from your mind. Currently focused on the gaming industry, its Emotiv EPOC wireless nueroheadset enables video games to respond to players' emotions and expressions and allows players to manipulate objects in the game using the power of their thoughts. This entirely new interface will dramatically change the gaming experience by making it more immersive, intuitive and personal.

NaturalPoint: NaturalPoint's SmartNav™ has been making gaming possible for people with physical disabilities around the globe for seven years. Complete computer independence is achieved with this hands-free ergonomic mouse by using only slight head movements. Elizabeth Ryan, SmartNav Marketing Director, says “Optical head tracking has been a breakthrough in assistive technology, making PC gaming accessible for those that can only move their heads.”

Oneswitch.org.uk: One Switch is a UK-based organization/web site that reaches out to gamers with cognitive and mobility disabilities throughout the world. One Switch provides controllers that have been “rerouted” in order to allow gamers with disabilities to play commercial computer and console games, as well as Do-It-Yourself guides for those who want to modify their own controllers to make them accessible.

The response by the industry toward adding in game accessibility features into their products “…has been dismal. The gaming industry cannot just assume that because these controllers hacks exist that they are off the hook,” Hinn added. “There are many types of disabilities that impact game play in different ways. Even if someone is using these controllers, many are quite costly - often more than a game and even a console system - and many games still remain impossible to play due to issues such as button combination choices that seem to be complex just to be complex and cannot be reconfigured.

But this criticism has not only been made by disability advocates - Industry veterans such as Ernest Adams and Peter Molyneux have also spoken out on the game complexity control issue for gamers in general. Solutions that help gamers with disabilities can enhance the game play experience for ALL gamers.”

The Game Accessibility SIG will be presenting the following sessions at GDC: Accessibility Arcade: Or How to Do the Jedi Mind Trick (Day One): Wednesday (Feb 20nd); 4:00pm - 5:00pm; Room 121, North Hall Accessibility Arcade: Or How to Do the Jedi Mind Trick (Day Two): Thursday (Feb 21st); 9:00am - 10:00am; Room 121, North Hall Dynamic Closed Captioning for Your Game Date/Time: Thursday (Feb 21st); 1:00pm - 2:00pm; Station 2, 2nd Floor Game Accessibility & Developers with Disabilities Group Gathering Date/Time: Thursday (Feb 21st, 2008); 2:30pm - 3:30pm; IGDA Booth, West Hall For more information about these sessions, the SIG, or to schedule an interview about any of the sessions or game accessibility in general, contact Michelle Hinn, IGDA Game Accessibility SIG Chair, at hinn{at]uiuc.edu -- Members of the SIG will be available the entire week of GDC.

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Xbox 360 Voice Recognition Controller

Xbox 360 Voice Recognition Controller Also worth pointing out that AcidMods.com have posted a great D.I.Y. guide for creating a voice activated controller for the Xbox 360 (although it could easily be adapted to work on most other consoles). There's a very clear YouTube video demonstration here.

I would bet that this will work alongside most accessible Playstation 2 controllers using an XFPS 360 adapter. Voice control would make a lot of sense when used with a switch interface where people can tailor build a set-up to suit themselves. LEPMIS can supply such an interface already, with the possibility of fitting specialist analogue controls.

As a side note, I've just received a component reportedly needed to get my PS2-SID working on Xbox 360 and hopefully other consoles. Fingers crossed time!

Via: Tim Chase at IGDA GASIG Mailing List


Voice Recognition for the Xbox 360

Mark, aka Cyberpyrot of his own website, AcidMods has created a very promising proof of concept for a way to play Xbox 360 games with your own voice.

Word is that the delay between spoken word and action in the game is because the device was set to long voice command mode. This means that with some more tweaking the response time between voice to action should be improved.

Great job Mark and AcidMods. This has a lot of potential to be of real value and help make games for all, including the disabled.

Original Post:

One Thumb to Rule Them All

"Mike Phillips is a gamer and freelance technology writer born with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA). Using his thumb and a proximity switch to access his computer he is a prolific journalist and has contributed chapters to several books. Assistive technology has opened the world for him. For a high resolution version go here: AssistiveWare.com"

Via: Tip from Special Effect

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